4 Dangerous Over-the-Counter Drugs That Kill

Posted 7 years ago by Ian Shutts

Most over-the-counter drugs are seemingly harmless. After all, if they are dangerous, they won’t be that easily accessible even without your doctor’s prescription, right? Pharmacies won’t sell them if they are harmful. Unfortunately, over-the-counter medications can be just as dangerous as prescription drugs. Yes, they can effectively control your symptoms, but like prescription drugs, they do have risks.

Below are four dangerous over-the-counter drugs that can kill.


Indications: Topical analgesic for pain relief.

Some Examples of Over-the-Counter Lidocaine: Aspercreme with Lidocaine and LMX Cream.

Some Side Effects: Dermatitis, irregular heartbeat, metallic taste in the mouth, headache, ringing in the ears, drowsiness, hearing loss, confusion, breathing problems, and double vision.

Some Complications from Excessive Use: Seizures, coma, irregular heartbeat, mood changes, confusion, severe drowsiness, and psychosis.

Deaths from Lidocaine: There have been several reports on deaths caused by lidocaine. In two unrelated cases in 2005, two women developed seizures after applying lidocaine-containing cream on their legs after having had laser hair removal treatments. Both women went into a coma and subsequently died from the toxic effects of the numbing cream. In another case, a young man died after gargling a solution containing lidocaine prior to his outpatient oesophagogastroduodenoscopy for acid peptic disease. Although he was advised not to swallow the solution, he still developed seizures and had trouble breathing. At the hospital, his heart rate and blood pressure dropped, and despite prompt medical care, the toxic effects of the lidocaine still caused his death.


Indications: For pain relief and fever.

Some Examples of Over-the-Counter Acetaminophen: Tylenol, Midol, Nyquil, Sinutab, Excedrin, Sudafed, and Dayquil.

Some Side Effects: Nausea, skin itching, abdominal pain, jaundice, dark-colored urine, appetite loss, and allergic reaction.

Some Complications from Excessive Use: Liver damage. Overdose can also cause death.

Deaths from Acetaminophen: According to FDA reports, there is an estimated number of more than 980 deaths yearly that are linked to acetaminophen-containing drugs, including Tylenol. Data taken from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also revealed that more than 300 individuals die yearly from poisoning caused by acetaminophen. Data gathered from the American Association of Poison Control Centers revealed that about 113 individuals die yearly from overdosing on acetaminophen-containing drugs.

Ibuprofen and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Indications: For pain relief and inflammation.

Some Examples of Over-the-Counter Ibuprofen and NSAIDs: Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Naprosyn, and Excedrin.

Some Side Effects: Heartburn, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating, and allergic reaction.

Some Complications from Excessive Use: Gastrointestinal bleeding, stomach ulcers, hypertension, increased risk of heart attack, increased risk of stroke, and liver damage.

Deaths from Ibuprofen and NSAIDs: According to a study done in 2004, an estimated number of 3,200 deaths occur yearly due to gastrointestinal bleeding caused by NSAIDs. Their data were taken from the 1990 mortality data report.


Indications: For pain relief, fever, and inflammation. It’s also used for the prevention of heart attacks as well as strokes. Aspirin is also given to prevent angina.

Some Examples of Over-the-Counter Aspirin: Bayer aspirin, Bufferin, Excedrin, and Aspirin.

Some Side Effects: Dry mouth, sour stomach, sleep problems, fatigue, drowsiness, dizziness, and belching.

Some Complications from Excessive Use: Increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke, gastrointestinal bleeding, severe allergic reaction, bleeding problems, water retention, liver problems, hypotension, irregular heartbeat, cerebral edema, and seizures.

Deaths from Aspirin: According to one study, there is an estimated number of 3,000 deaths caused by daily aspirin use each year, and these numbers are for Britain alone. As for the United States, a study conducted by the Eastern Virginia Medical School researchers revealed that aspirin causes the death of more than 20,000 Americans yearly. This drug is also the cause for more than 100,000 hospitalizations yearly due to gastrointestinal problems, including bleeding.

These are just some of the most dangerous over-the-counter drugs that can kill. While it’s true though that these drugs do help millions of people yearly, it can’t be denied that they can also contribute to the exacerbation of their medical problems and ultimately lead to their deaths.

The legalization of medical cannabis in some states has somehow helped decrease the need for these over-the-counter medications and even prescription drugs. Not only can medical cannabis help relieve a variety of medical conditions, but cannabis is also a relatively safe drug. In fact, there has never been any recorded death associated with cannabis overdose. This is probably because there are no cannabinoid receptors in the brain’s respiratory center, compared to opioids which can affect breathing since there are opioid receptors in this part of the brain.

The use of medical cannabis in states where it is legal may have also been responsible for the 25% reduction in opioid-related deaths. Doctors in medical cannabis states have also reported that there is a reduction in their prescription for painkillers because of medical cannabis. This clearly shows that medical cannabis has the potential to help patients and is an effective alternative treatment to conventional drugs.